I woke up and looked out the bus, felt like I was traveling back to my hometown. The bus has already reached Dandeli. The trees and the roads were wet, definitely it rained the previous night. Felt so refreshed to watch those greenery passing as my bus entered the bus station. I came to visit Dandeli for three days and had a great time here.
Dandeli is a small town located in the northern part of Karnataka. It is not a super popular tourist destination, at least till now. So when Rajesh from Dandeli.com invited to visit Dandeli, I didn’t have to think much. Told him that I wanted to visit during monsoon and the dates were fixed. As the days to travel were getting nearby, big excitement was growing inside me. The Western ghats will get an entirely different character during the rains, I had an amazing monsoon trek in Kudachadri earlier.
Dandeli has all the beauty of Western Ghats. The population density is comparatively less in this region. The economy is strongly dependent on the forest and now tourism. The West coast paper mill is one big industry in Dandeli. Apart from the occasional weekend tourists, who mainly come for rafting, Dandeli is a quiet place.
Before going more into Dandeli, I have something to ask you;
Do you like spending time walking through the lush forest?
Can you bear the silence of nature?
Are you okay watching birds singing all the day?
If your answer for all the above is “Yes”, then apart from just as a rafting place, Dandeli has a lot to offer for you.
Here is why you should visit Dandeli?
The Kali river
By the time you reach Dandeli, this charming river will be following you wherever you go. The river Kali is an integral part of Dandeli. The people here completely depend upon this river for their livelihood and agriculture is beautiful. The river appears to be black in color. it is because of the mineral-rich rocks at the bottom. The word “Kali” means black.
Since it is flowing through the forest in Dandeli, the water is fresh. You can see a lot of animals on the banks of the river all the time. To give you some shiver, there are also crocodiles on some areas of the river.
The Old Magazine House
A day stay in Old Magazine house was one of the best things happened to me in Dandeli.
The Old Magazine House is run by the forest department. It was built to store the explosives during the construction of the Supa dam across the Kali river. Later the government converted it into a forest resort.
The Old Magazine House is in Ganeshgudi which is about 25 km from Dandeli.
The Old Magazine House is a very well known place among bird watchers. During the peak season time, photographers and bird watchers from all around the world come here. Since it was monsoon now, there were only a few visitors. The resort is calm and silent, the only sound we hear is that of the birds, few monkeys and a giant squirrel couple which roams around the resort compound all the time. Moreover, the mobile phone networks are weak here, so no distractions.
The Old magazine has private rooms, cottages and dormitory. The facilities are available as a package which includes rafting, coracle ride, trekking, bird watching and nature walks.
Later in the evening that day, the guides from the resort took me to the top of a hill near to the resort to watch the sunset. It is a 30-minute trek through the forest. From the top, you will get a panoramic view of the catchment area of the Supa dam. The sunset from the top was beautiful.
One thing I really like about Old Magazine House is the food. During my journeys, I don’t expect much about the food but surprised by the food here. The hospitality is really worth mentioning and the employees are putting a lot of effort to keep the standard of the jungle resort.
From the resort met a researcher from London who is studying about birds for the last 15 years. Went for a walk with him, told lot of fascinating information about birds and butterflies.
The forest camp will get a different mood in the night. The surroundings become so still as the darkness crawl over the forest. Sitting around the fire in front of the cottage, all you can hear is the sound of crickets.
Now coming to the most interesting part of my visit to Dandeli.
Whenever someone talks about Dandeli, river rafting will be the first thing that they tag with this place. I was very excited to see the Kali river and raft through the rapids of this beautiful river.
I was a little hesitant when the instructor told to jump into the river to just familiarise with the water initially. Someone from our group shouted there was a crocodile.
A few years back, the government built Supa dam across Kali river, after that the water level in the river is not predictable. If the dam is open, there will be a pretty good amount of water in the river and rafting is possible. But in the other case, you need to wait for the perfect day. I was lucky enough, there was more than enough water in the river that day.
I will tell you why rafting in the river Kali is special. Generally, we do rafting in the Himalayan rivers. Most of us might have rafted there. The terrain and landscape will be the rocky mountains. But just imagine yourself rafting over the rapids through thick forest, both sides lined by big trees. If that gives you some excitement, then you should visit Dandeli and try rafting.
The best part of the rafting was the final stage, where we go through a very dark narrow part of the river. The river goes zig-zag like a snake. The instructor will ask us to be silent and listen to the forest. We will be floating slowly, branches of trees sliding past our face, that will takes us to a magical world.
When I was on the way to the Timber depot in Dandeli, I was skeptical. Since my previous day in Old Magazine house was full of bird encounters, I was thinking how this is going to be interesting.
The moment I reached the depot, realized how stupid my doubts were. Received a hearty welcome from a large bunch of colorful birds feasting on the fig tree at the entrance.
After a brief introduction about the place and the birds here, our guide pointed to a tree, I spotted one hornbill, then another next to it, then another again and it continued. There were a big group of hornbills, never saw something like that before. That was just the beginning. As we started our walk through the depot, we saw a lot more. Our guide, a teacher working here part-time because of her interest in bird watching, was very helpful. She helped to spot the birds and identify them. She gave a broad picture of the life of Hornbills and how important they are to the ecosystem, their life and social behavior were quite interesting.
We can see four varieties of Hornbills there. I was not lucky enough to see them all. The Malabar pied hornbills were the show stoppers of the day. My guide taught me how to identify each variant and the difference between male and female. It was a great learning experience. She kept on talking about the nature and the coexistence between different species.
As a part of creating awareness and conservation of hornbills, the tourism department has started annual hornbill festival in Dandeli ( similar to that of Nagaland).
There are millions of things about nature which we still don’t know. We are not at all aware of anything even though we are the part of this nature. Just look at our surroundings, there is plenty to learn.
Best time to visit Dandeli
You can visit Dandeli all around the year.
In summer, this place will be dry and less green.
So I suggest, visit Dandeli during monsoon or during the months after that. The monsoons start by June. The crowd will be less during rains (people are still reluctant to get wet in the rains), you can have a pretty good time here.
How to reach Dandeli
Dandeli is well connected by roads from Bangalore, Mumbai, Karwar, Dharwad and Goa. Several buses ply between these places and Dandeli throughout the day.
If you are coming by train Hubli and Dharwad are nearest railway stations.
In my case, I was traveling from Chennai, left to Bangalore afternoon to reach there by night 9. From there, took a private bus to reach Dandeli in the morning. From there, Sanjay from Dandeli.com picked me to Old Magazine House. They took care of all my travel needs later on and dropped me back to the bus stand last day.
Things to know before you visit Dandeli
You can plan your trip to Dandeli for a weekend. Two days is enough unless you are very much interested in spending some quality time in nature.
River rafting in the Kali river is the best thing to do here. The availability of rafting depends on the availability of water in the river which again depends on whether the dam is open or not. So I would say, you need to be a little lucky. Rafting was not possible on the day after mine, those who came for it had to wait again one more day.
The cost of river rafting is 1350 INR, The cost will not be included in your package. You need to pay it extra.
Also, you need to pay extra to get photographs and videos of rafting. The photographs will cost you about 500 INR and the video will cost around 1500 INR (you can share the videos among others in the raft). The video will be taken by the instructor, so before paying for it, just check whether you got enough footage of yourselves.
Before planning your trip, get an idea about the package and the things that are included in it. Generally, the package will include food, forest trekking, bird watch, coracle ride, visit to Syntheri rocks, natural jacuzzi etc. It is better to ask whether anything is out of the package before deciding to go for it.
Make sure you make the arrangements for your transportation back to the bus station or railway station well in advance once you reach there itself. The places you stay will be quite far and it will help you to avoid last minute rush.
My visit to Dandeli was arranged by Dandeli.com (click this link). They are the most popular tour operators in Dandeli. If you are planning a visit, just visit their website. Check out the packages and accommodation they provide. You can contact them through mail at [email protected] or over the phone at 9483940400
So that’s about the place, visit Dandeli and have a great time.
Do let me know if you have anything to ask, put your queries and suggestions as comments.
Read about more destinations in the Western Ghats of India.
This post was brought to you by a partnership with Dandeli.com. All opinions are my own
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